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Difference Between Active and Passive Pickups

Active vs Passive Pickups

Pickups are devices that are used to convert mechanical vibrations of stringed instruments, such as a guitar or a violin, into electric signals so that, they can be amplified and then broadcast or stored for a later broadcast. If you are a guitarist or a violinist, you are probably aware of these pickups but for a vast majority, pickups are an enigma. There are two broad categories of pickups called active and passive pickups. This article attempts to highlight the differences between these two pickups for the benefit of the readers.

To keep things short and simple, there is a circuit in case of active pickups that requires battery power. On the other hand, there is no need for additional power for passive pickups to operate. This tiny difference can mean a lot in terms of tone of your guitar and the output of its sound. Passive pickups give a low output, and usually lose extremely high and low frequencies. However, they are still capable of providing a clear tone, because of their ability to send more frequencies in the middle range. One drawback with passive pickups is, providing little control to the players though, the sound quality is still smooth and desirable.

In case of active pickups, the pickup housing has built- in preamps that push the signal to amps directly. However, these preamps need a separate power source other than amps, which is why we take the help of batteries. This means, that pickup is able to send a higher output signal, and a full range sound that is better than provided by all passive pickups.

Both active as well as passive pickups can detect a signal produced by the vibration of the strings of a guitar or a violin. There is a disturbance in the magnetic field functions, producing a small current. Active pickups can boost an output signal, which means, they can detect lower levels of string vibration. However, passive pickups are simpler in nature, and do not face battery failure, which is a common case with active pickups. Though, there is an obvious benefit with active pickups with their better, cleaner, and clearer Hi-Fi sound output, they are expensive and require maintenance of battery source.

Difference Between Active and Passive Pickups

• Active pickups require a separate power source (batteries), whereas there is no such requirement in case of passive pickup

• Passive pickups are cheaper but provide lesser control to players.

• Active pickups send a higher output signal, and produce a full range sound.


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